Most principals have job descriptions that easily span
several pages. And though there's no shortage of important responsibilities on
the list, the one that should be at the top of those pages is helping teachers
extend what they do well and identifying the areas where they have the greatest
potential to grow. To do this, teachers and administrators require the time and
space to reflect upon classroom successes and hone in on weaknesses while
prioritizing opportunities to learn rather than judge.
Within this framework, there are many possible approaches for school administrators to utilize. But one that is gaining traction in a variety of schools where I have visited is prioritizing frequent classroom observations, even if they are only for ten-minute segments of a class. And when these observations are followed by thoughtful conversations about the range of decisions teachers make to help students learn, it often proves to be one of the most impactful uses of an administrator’s time.
During these observations and in the conversations that
follow, it is helpful for school administrators to ask focused questions that
apply specifically to the teacher’s curriculum and pedagogy, rather than
generic ones that may be listed on a typical class observation form or in a
standardized rubric. Perceptive questions generated during a class visit help
teachers develop challenging yet attainable goals that may lead to professional
development strategies and later assessing impacts on students' learning. All of
these steps foster a collective accountability for improving everything that
happens in the classroom. And through these dialogues, teachers benefit from
administrative support and professional growth that can lead to a heightened
degree of autonomy both for their teaching and for their own success.
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